Read The Empire’s Corps: Book 01 - The Empire's Corps Online

Authors: Christopher Nuttall

Tags: #war, #galactic empire, #insurgency, #marines

The Empire’s Corps: Book 01 - The Empire's Corps

BOOK: The Empire’s Corps: Book 01 - The Empire's Corps
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The Empire’s Corps

Christopher Nuttall

Series Listing

Book One: The Empire’s Corps

Book Two: No Worse Enemy

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The Empire’s Corps

Christopher Nuttall

Copyright 2012 by Christopher Nuttall

Smashwords Edition

Cover Blurb

 

You Should Never Speak Truth To Power…

 

The Galactic Empire is dying and chaos and anarchy are breaking out everywhere. After a disastrous mission against terrorists on Earth itself, Captain Edward Stalker of the Terran Marine Corps makes the mistake of speaking truth to power, telling one of the most powerful men in the Empire a few home truths. As a result, Captain Stalker and his men are unceremoniously exiled to Avalon, a world right on the Rim of the Empire. It should have been an easy posting…

Well, apart from the bandits infesting the countryside, an insurgency that threatens to topple the Empire’s loose control over Avalon, and a corrupt civil government more interested in what it can extort from the population than fighting a war. The Marines rapidly find themselves caught up in a whirlwind of political and economic chaos, fighting to preserve Avalon before the competing factions tear the world apart. They’re Marines; if anyone can do it, they can.

The battle to save the Empire starts here.

Chapter One

 

The Nihilists are a terrorist cult that appeared during the waning years of empire, worshipping death as a political statement – and very little else. Nihilists have no political ambitions or demands; they simply seek to kill as many humans as possible, including themselves, in order to satisfy their lust for destruction. Their attacks are almost always unpredictable and very destructive.

- Professor Leo Caesius,
The Waning Years of Empire
(banned).

 

The stench of death was in the air.

Captain Edward Stalker walked through what remained of the city-block and shuddered inwardly. It wasn’t a pretty sight. Human bodies lay everywhere, some broken and torn, others surprisingly intact, surrounded by the blackened ruins of what had once been their home. Four days ago, the city-block had played host to four thousand middle-class men and women, bureaucrats who had worked to keep the Empire running. They had lived and worked and played within the confines of their block. Their children had grown up, formed relationships with other children and started families of their own. It might not have been a perfect life, but it had been a life. They’d been happy.

And then the Nihilists had arrived. They’d taken over the block and prevented anyone from leaving, taking everyone in the block hostage against the inevitable response by the Civil Guard. The Guard had failed to dislodge the Nihilists from their positions and, in desperation, had screamed for the Marines. The Marines had gone into the block and liberated it, at a cost. Over three thousand hostages – and thirty-one Marines – lay dead in the rubble. The Nihilists had never intended to bargain with their lives, or seek a political advantage; the Nihilists had simply intended to blacken the Empire’s eye by slaughtering its civilians. They’d somehow shipped in enough weapons and explosives to blast the entire block to dust. It had been sheer luck that they’d failed to blow the complex when the Marines went in. Edward knew better than to rely on luck. Marines made their own luck.

He ground his teeth together as he looked towards a billowing cloud of smoke in the distance, towards the other end of the complex. The Civil Guard had sworn blind that there were only a hundred Nihilists within the complex, more than enough to control a city-block full of unarmed sheep, but they’d been wrong. There had been over four hundred Nihilists within the block and over half of them had attempted a breakout when the Marines went in. They’d hit the Civil Guard and smashed right through them, vanishing into the Undercity before the Marines could get into position to block their escape. Retreating under fire was uncharacteristic for the Nihilists – normally, they fought and died in place, turning their deaths into a political statement – but Edward had to admit that it had worked out for them. Their propaganda machine was already gloating over how they’d escaped the Marines. The hundreds of media reporters now swarming through the remains of the block – after paying a bribe to the Civil Guard Superintendent – wouldn’t hesitate to take their propaganda and run it as fact. The Empire would be demoralised, exactly as the Nihilists had intended.

“Captain,” Command Sergeant Gwendolyn Patterson said, as Edward entered the small gym. It, like the other rooms in the complex, had been blackened by fire, but the material used to build it could have stood up to a small nuke. The Marines had taken it over and turned it into a prisoner holding facility. “We have seventeen prisoners here and nine others who have been transferred to the Appleton Hospital.”

Edward nodded, taking in the sight in front of him. The Nihilists didn’t look so threatening now. Stripped of their weapons and combat armour, lying on the hard floor with their hands secured behind their backs, they looked terrified, as if they expected the Marines to start torturing them at any moment. They weren’t hardcore Nihilists, Edward knew; hardcore Nihilists would never have been taken alive. They were just young men and women who had been seduced by the Nihilists and recruited into terrorist cells, just for something to do. They might not even have realised that their new masters considered them expendable. It wouldn’t matter in the end. They’d be walked in front of a judge, once their brains had been drained dry of everything they knew, and either executed or exiled to one of the frontier worlds as indentured labour. It was one way out of the stifling boredom of the Middle City.

“Good,” he said, tiredly. Gwen was short and surprisingly feminine. No one would have taken her for a Marine on first glance, even though she could outfight almost anyone else within the Company. Rumour had it that Gwen had a habit of cruising the bars in the Undercity and beating up rapists, although Edward had carefully refrained from looking into the rumours. He might have had to take official notice of her activities.

“The Civil Guard beat up on a couple of them and raped a third,” Gwen added, her face twisting into an expression of distaste. Marines were supposed to be perfectly controlled at all times. The Civil Guard was really a glorified police force. They carried weapons and acted like a military service, yet they were hardly up to Marine standards. “They now want the remaining prisoners turned over to their custody.”

Edward scowled, staring down at the prisoners. There was little hope of punishing the Civil Guard for their activities. Their supervisors would hand out meaningless punishments, if they bothered to take notice at all…after all, they’d say, it had only been Nihilists who had suffered. Edward, who’d grown up on Earth, knew just how deeply the Civil Guard were hated by the local population, but their opinions didn’t matter. He looked towards the towering spires of Imperial City and the Grand Senate. Only their opinions mattered in the Empire.

“Tell them that we’re taking them in for interrogation first,” he said, sourly. The nasty part of his mind kept asking why he bothered, but he pushed it aside. “How’s Joe?”

“Survived, again,” Gwen said, with a wink. Joe Buckley was one of the enlisted men, with a remarkable talent for getting into situations where he should have died…and walking out of them unscathed. This time, a group of Nihilists had jumped him and his platoon as they advanced, blowing the floor and sending both groups plummeting down to the basement. “He was a bit stunned afterwards, but refused to allow me to send him back to the barracks.”

Her face darkened. “We lost Lucy, though,” she added. “The internal damage was too much for her and she died on the way to the medical centre.”

Edward nodded, refusing to let his feelings show. Lucy had been a newcomer to the Company, but she’d fitted in well and become popular with her comrades. He remembered a bright young girl with a promising career ahead of her, now cut short by the Nihilists and their absurd death wish. She had been a Marine in the truest sense of the word, laying down her life to protect others. She had died under his command. Lucy was hardly the first trooper he’d lost, but it always hurt, like a knife in the gut.

His earpiece buzzed before he could say anything else. “Captain, this is Garrison,” a new voice said. “The Grand Senate has summoned you to testify before their Emergency Committee.”

“Oh, they have, have they?” Edward said, angrily. He needed to pull his men back to the barracks and make the preparations for the farewell ceremonies for the dead, not speak before the political lords and masters of the Empire. “And when do they want me to do this?”

“Now,” Garrison said. “They were very insistent. I kept them waiting as long as I could.”

“You’d better go,” Gwen said, her face reflecting the same distaste for politicians and their manoeuvres as he felt. “I’ll see to everything here.”

Edward wanted to protest – he was Captain; it was his responsibility – but she was right. “Understood,” he said. “
Semper Fi
.”


Semper Fi
,” Gwen returned.

Edward walked back out of the complex, barely aware of the two armed Marines escorting him as he headed down towards the landing pad and the handful of aircars waiting there. The press, kept back by a weak line of Civil Guardsmen, shouted questions towards him, but Edward ignored them completely. He knew from experience that anything he said – or any other Marine said – would be mutated into something else before it even hit the broadsheets and reached the public. In the coming days, he knew, the reporters would milk the terrorist attack for all it was worth, interviewing anyone and everyone who might know something about the disaster. They’d probably blame everything on the Marines.

The aircar rose up into the air and headed towards the Grand Senate’s building, looming next to the Imperial Palace and the Assembly of Nobles. Edward had always considered the building a monument to grandeur rather than good taste, but he had to admit that it was striking in the dawn, when the light from the rising sun was reflected across the city by the building. Hundreds of other aircars were flying all over the city, most of them heading towards the scene of the terrorist attack. The handful of aircars the Nihilists had shot down hadn’t deterred air traffic for long, but really…who would want to walk on the ground? Outside the massive city-blocks, anarchy ruled Earth, no matter what the Grand Senate said. The Civil Guard wasn’t up to the task of keeping the streets in order. Earth depoted – or executed – hundreds of thousands of criminals each year, yet it barely made a dent in the problem. Edward, who’d grown up on Earth, knew the truth. The undercity dwellers had nothing to live for.

He checked his appearance as the aircar floated down towards the priority landing pad. He still wore the light combat armour he’d donned for the mission, even though he’d removed the helmet as soon as the fighting had ended. The Grand Senators would probably be horrified as soon as they smelt him, the nasty part of his mind whispered, but it was their fault. They should have waited long enough for him to have a shower and change into his dress blues. The handful of servitors who met him at the pad looked as if they couldn’t decide if they wanted to sneer at him, or run screaming. A Marine had no place in their world.

“Come with me,” one of the servants said, finally. Edward smiled tiredly – she was worth smiling at, even though her face and body was probably the result of cosmetic surgery – and allowed her to lead him through the corridors towards the Senate Chamber. The small groups of people they met on their passage leapt aside, stunned by the sight of a man wearing armour and carrying a weapon. The MAG-74 looked fearsome even in the hands of a man who didn’t know what he was doing with it. Edward had spent two years at the Slaughterhouse learning how to use it as a precision weapon.

They reached the antechamber and Edward stopped, looking up at the massive portrait that hung on one wall. The Emperor’s face stared back down at him. Emperor Roland had been crowned Emperor when he had been a child of barely two years old. Now, he was fifteen and, if rumour were to be believed, a spoilt brat. It didn’t matter. Edward saluted the portrait anyway. Loyalty to the Emperor, he’d been taught, was all that kept the Empire together.

“The Grand Senate will see you now,” the servitor said, with a bow that exposed a considerable amount of cleavage. A massive wooden door – real wood, part of Edward’s mind noted – swung open. “Please leave your weapon with the security guards and enter the chamber.”

Edward unslung the rifle from his shoulder, code-locked the firing trigger, and passed it to the guard. Leaving it with them, he stepped into the chamber, wincing slightly as a spotlight shone down on him from high above. The thirteen Grand Senators, the Grand Old Men of the Empire, stared down at him, their faces expressionless and cold. As long as they worked together, Edward had been told, they could effectively run the Empire to suit themselves. They dominated the Senate and the Assembly of Nobles. The House of Representatives was hopelessly divided.

BOOK: The Empire’s Corps: Book 01 - The Empire's Corps
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